Friday, February 27, 2009

.white chocolate raspberry cheesecake.

I have to admit I have a slight addiction to cheesecake.  Probably one of the reasons I love going to The Cheesecake Factory.  There's just something about that creamy baked filling and the graham cracker crust.  I love all variations!

This recipe has melted white chocolate mixed into the batter, and jellied raspberries on top.  A delightful marriage.  Here's how I made it.

Begin by creaming together 4 8oz packages of cream cheese (softened) and 1/2 cup (1 cube) butter (softened).  

Once creamed, scrape down the sides and add 3 eggs.  Mix well.

Add 1 cup sugar, 3 Tbsp flour, and 1 tsp vanilla.

Melt 8 ounces white chocolate (use a good quality brand) in a double boiler.  When the white chocolate just starts melting, turn the heat off and let the steam finish it off.  Pour into the cream cheese mixture and mix well, scraping sides down.

Prepare one graham cracker crust by crushing 1 package (about 2 cups), then adding 2 tsp sugar, and 1/4 cup melted butter.  Press into the bottom of a 9" springform pan.

Pour the cream cheese mixture into the pan and wrap the entire pan with foil.

The foil will keep water from getting into the pan.  Put a baking sheet that has sides in your oven and fill halfway up with water.  Place the springform pan in the center.  Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hrs in a preheated 325* oven.

When done, the top should be slightly browned.  The center should be set and there shouldn't be any cracking on the surface at all.

Allow to cool to room temp then cover well with saran and put in the fridge to chill at least 5 hours, but best if you can let it chill overnight.

Now for the topping.  You can use fresh or frozen raspberries.  In a saucepan put 1 1/2 cups berries with 1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp cornstarch, and 1/2 cup water.  Put on the stove over high heat.  Make sure you stir often to keep this from burning.

When it's done, it should be nice and thick.  At this time, I added another 1/2 cup or so of berries because the ones I put in the pan originally have cooked down a lot and I like to have some whole berries in there.

Spread out on top of the cheesecake and then put back into the fridge to chill another hour to really let that raspberry topping set up.

When you're ready to serve, use a thin knife and run along the sides to release the cheesecake from the pan.  Carefully open up the side of the pan and remove.

Heat a butcher's knife by running under hot water.  Dry the blade and slice the cheesecake.  This will keep the cake from sticking to the metal when you pull through.  Serve with some whipped cream.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

.shrimp & sausage gumbo.

Happy Mardi Gras week everyone!  Fat Tuesday was the other night and I had to make gumbo.  Love love love it.  The first time I ever tried gumbo was when Jim and I were first married.  One of the guys stationed on the ship with him was Creole.. he and his wife came from New Orleans.  All I can say is holy crap that stuff was hot! LOL  And this guy kept adding hot sauce to his bowl!  ACK!  I don't make mine nearly as hot.  I'm sure if you want it spicier, you can dump in more Tabasco, but if you've got people in your home who cannot tolerate too much heat (because there still is some heat in this), add more hot sauce to your own bowl.

There are a lot of variations of gumbo but the ingredients that are a must are okra and andouille sausage.. and you must serve it over rice.  Here's my version.

Chop up the following:  1 green bell pepper, 1 onion, 1/2 cup parsley, and 3 celery stalks.

You will also need 2 cloves garlic, minced.

You'll also want to slice up 1 cup of okra.  I'm glad I know what okra is, having lived in the south, because they didn't have this labeled at all in the grocery store.  In fact, I better check my receipt to make sure I was charged for the right thing!

Slice up about 2 cups andouille sausage.  This is a french sausage that is nice and spicy and has a smoky flavor.  Cut on the diagonal.

In a stock pot, melt 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) and add 1/2 cup flour.  Make sure you whisk as you add so you don't get lumps.  This is our roux.  Cook it over medium low heat, stirring frequently so it doesn't burn for about 15 minutes.

When the roux turns a nice brown color, add the chopped vegetables and garlic and stir to coat all the pieces.  Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring often to make sure everything cooks evenly.

Add 1/4 cup tomato paste, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 bay leaf, some salt, and 1 Tbsp Tabasco sauce, or any other Louisiana hot sauce.  Mix well and cook again for another 15 minutes.  The heat will release the flavor of the cumin.

Add 8-10 cups chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover with a lid.  Cook for another 30 minutes.

10 minutes before serving, add 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (medium to large size) and sausage.  Cover and let cook until the shrimp are nice and pink and the sausage is slightly shrunk.  It'll shrink a little because the fat is cooking out and all that flavor is marrying with the broth and veggies.

Taste and season again with salt and pepper.  Add more hot sauce if you want.

Serve over rice.  A true Mardi Gras dish for your whole family to enjoy!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

.chicken curry.

My husband has traveled around the globe courtesy of the Navy and one of his favorite things was having curry while on port visits in the middle east.  I had tried curry once and wasn't horribly impressed but someone told me when you have bad curry, it's BAD, but when it's good... you will never be the same.  Jim used to ask me to make curry for him but I would just turn my nose up at him... eventually he gave up the idea I'd ever turn around.

Then one day we were out for lunch and he ordered curry.  I tried a bite and was shocked!  It was fantastic and since then sought out a recipe that would compare.  After I made this, Jim said  it was very close to what he's had in the Gulf.   It wasn't spicy because I left out the peppers (the girls gobbled this up!), but if you want it kicked up, add a little Thai chili.

Start with your prep.  Peel and slice 2 carrots, julienne 1 red bell pepper, slice 1 onion, and peel and cube 3 potatoes (I used white potatoes).

You'll also want to mince 4 cloves of garlic, and grate 1 Tbsp fresh gingerroot.

In a stock pot, heat up 2 Tbsp oil (you can use chili oil if you want) and saute the garlic, ginger, and 3 tsp curry paste.  I used red curry paste.  Stir to make sure nothing burns.  Work that curry paste into the ginger and garlic.

Add 1 can coconut milk.  If you can find a light version of this, go ahead and use it to cut down on the fat content.  I had this in my pantry and wanted to use it up.

Also add 2 tsp fish sauce, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, and 1 can chicken stock.

I didn't get a picture of this either, but you'll want to thick this a little.  So put 3 Tbsp flour in a bowl and whisk in 1/2 cup water until there aren't any lumps.  While stirring the sauce in the stock pot, add the flour/water.

Now for the chicken.  The best thing to use for curry are the thighs.  The meat is so tender and juicy and practically falls off the bone when it's all cooked.  So delicious.

Put the thighs in a ziploc and sprinkle in a little flour, salt, and pepper.  Shake to coat it all.

Put a little oil in a skillet and heat over medium.  Add the chicken thighs and fry on each side until they're nice and golden.  Remove from the pan and let sit on a plate.

Then add the prepped veggies and saute until the potatoes start getting translucent on all sides.  Season with a little Thai basil.  If you don't have Thai basil, use regular.  I used about 1 1/2 tsp.

Add the chicken and sauteed vegetables to the curry.  Bring to a boil, stirring often, then reduce the heat and cover the pot with a lid.  Allow to cook for 20-30 minutes.  Season with a little salt.

Serve over rice.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

.sun-dried tomato, kalamata olive, and feta pizza.

Yes... we are cliche. We had heart-shaped pizzas on Valentine's Day.  I have been craving feta and kalamata olives the past week.  At the bakery, we used to make pizza as part of our lunch menu, in addition to salads, sandwiches, wraps, and soup.  This was by far my most favorite thing to eat.

The saltiness of the olives with the tanginess of the feta... nestled on baked dough and warmed garlic sauce?  Oh man.  Can you smell it?  (it's fantastic!!!)

Melt 3 Tbsp butter in a saucepan and add 1 clove minced garlic.  Saute for a minute.

Add 2 Tbsp flour and whisk.  Let the roux cook for a few minutes on low heat.  Keep stirring to keep from burning.

Add 1 1/2 cups milk and kick up the heat a little.  Make sure you whisk while adding the milk so you don't get lumps.  Keep stirring this and it will begin thickening.

The sauce needs to be slightly thicker than a gravy.  Season with salt and pepper and I even add a little parmesan cheese.

The main ingredients.  Feta (check!), kalamata olives (check!), and sun-dried tomatoes (check check!).

My tomatoes are julienned.  If yours aren't, you'll need to slice them up into thin strips.  Chop up some olives.  Make sure you get pitted olives otherwise you'll have to try and rip the flesh from the pit and chop up.  That's no fun.

Take your pizza dough and divide in half or in thirds.  Since my family doesn't really like this pizza (read: they hate olives), I made it smaller so it was all mine!  ALL MINE!!!

I formed my pizza into a heart shape.  Awwww... 

Spoon on some of the garlic sauce.  Top with the olives, tomatoes, and feta.  I also put a little parmesan and mozzarella on top.

As you can see I put a little sprinkle of cornmeal around on the pizza peel.  If you don't have a pizza peel, don't worry.  Just use a cookie sheet that doesn't have a lip.  You do want to use a pizza stone though.  You can find them at Bed, Bath, and Beyond or if you know someone who sells Pampered Chef, get one of those!  They have a better warranty.

If you're using a stone, put it on the lowest rack in your oven about 30 minutes before you start rolling out your pizzas.  Turn your oven to 475* and let that stone heat up real good.  That's key for giving you a nice crispy and chewy crust.  Mm mm mm. 

Carefully shimmy the pizza onto the stone once it's hot.  Sometimes I have to use a pancake turner to push it off without losing all my toppings.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes.  The top will be nice and golden brown and your crust should be all puffy and beautiful.  Let sit for a few minutes before slicing and eating.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Hello readers and Happy Valentine's Day.  Are you all prepared to start cooking?  For easy access to all of the recipes for tonight's menu, here are all of the links to the courses.  Each entry has a printable version so you can keep it right next to you.

Course 1

Course 2

Course 3

Course 4

To stay true to this beautiful meal, your table should be set accordingly.  Below is a diagram of how to set a proper (informal) place setting.  I used two goblets on our table; one for water, and another for sparkling cider.  If you're having wine, you'll definitely want a separate goblet for that. ;)

Enjoy your evening and again, I hope you let me know how everything turns out!  

Thursday, February 12, 2009

.chocolate souffle.

Ahhhh chocolate souffle...or should I say pure unadulterated pleasure in a ramekin.  Oh how I love thee!  This dessert recipe is the cherry on top of the cake for your Valentine Dinner.  Are you folks ready to start cooking?

Remember, you can do a lot of your prep tomorrow if you have time, that way you aren't killing yourself on Saturday.  It is a good thing Valentine's Day falls on a weekend though, right?  I really hope if you make this menu for your special love, that you'll come back and let me know how it goes.  Deal?

Okay.. back to the pot of pure pleasure.  I have to admit something.  This is the first time I have ever made a souffle.  I guess I've always been intimidated by it and thought they took so much work and time.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Seriously.  It really isn't difficult.  You just have to know what you're doing and that's where I come in.  You are going to WOW the socks off your husband or wife if you make this for them.  Really.  So don't be afraid.  Just follow me. :)

Take 4 ramekins and butter the bottom and sides.  Dust with regular sugar.  This recipe will probably make up to six souffles, so if you have enough ramekins, by all means.. make six!

These ramekins need to go back into the fridge to sit while we make the souffle.

You need to melt 4 ounces high quality bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa) over a double boiler on very very low heat.  You don't want your chocolate to get too hot.  A tip.  When the chocolate starts melting, turn the heat off and just let the heat melt it.

Once it's melted, just set it aside for now.

Separate five eggs, saving only 3 of the yolks.  You need all of the 5 egg whites so do not discard them.  I put my eggs on the counter to warm up a little before starting my souffles.  You will get more volume when it comes time to whip.

Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl with 1/4 cup sugar.  Whisk on high for 3 minutes.  At that time, the yolks and sugar will be really pale and fluffy.

Add 2 Tbsp flour and whisk again on high.  The mixture will start thickening now.  Make sure you scrape the sides of your mixing bowl to ensure everything is incorporated.

I didn't tell you beforehand, but you need to heat 1 cup milk just until it's warm.  Do not let it come to a boil.  While the mixer is on low speed, slowly add the milk into your egg yolk mixture.  Once the milk has been added, turn onto high speed and whisk for a minute.

Pour the entire milk/yolk mixture back into the saucepan and put on a medium burner.  You need to stay right on this and whisk getting into the corners because it will burn and try to stick on you.  So keep whisking.  It will start thickening up a little.  Once it starts thickening, REMOVE THE PAN FROM THE BURNER and whisk whisk whisk just to make sure nothing's sticking.

I returned this BACK to the mixer bowl and whisked again on high heat to make sure I had it whipped real good.

Add the melted chocolate and whisk again on high for a minute.

This is your creme patisserie and the base of your souffle.  If you aren't quite ready to go all the way with your souffle, then put a sheet of saran over the top of this mix, pressing it to seal tight on the surface of the patisserie.  Keep in a warm place.

I'm pretty sure this is how far a restaurant goes with their souffles.  Then when someone orders one, all they have to do is fold in the egg whites and bake.  Pretty amazing process, I'm sure.

Okay.. ready for the next step?  You're almost there!

If you only have one mixing bowl and whisk attachment, you're going to need to move the creme patisserie to another bowl, wash your mixing bowl well and drying it completely, and clean your whisk.  You need a very clean bowl to get your whites to whip up.

Put the 5 egg whites in the bowl with a pinch of cream of tartar.  Whip on high.  When you have soft peaks, sprinkle in 2 Tbsp sugar.  Continue to beat until you have firm peaks.  Little fluffy clouds of goodness!

Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate.  This will lighten up the base.  Add the remaining whites and quickly fold in before they deflate.  If there are striations in the batter, it's okay.  

Pull the ramekins from the oven and ladle the souffle filling into each one.  Fill just up to where the lip flutes out.

Put these into a preheated 400* oven for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes are up, pull these from the oven.  Make sure when they're baking that you don't open the oven for any reason.  The egg whites give the souffle the lift and bouyancy that make this dessert so spectacular and so indulgent.

Dust lightly with cocoa or powdered sugar.  If you want to serve this with a little whipped cream or ice cream, go right on ahead.

So is it as intimidating as you think a souffle appears to be?  If you can whip egg whites, or make a cream pie filling, you can make these!  I know I'm not scared anymore.  I even have a recipe for a lemon souffle that I'll have to try sometime.  

Thank you to all of you who are taking this Valentine dinner journey with me.  I hope you have much success and I hope the hearts and stomachs of those you love are filled this holiday weekend.


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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

.roasted garlic mashed potatoes.

Roasted garlic mashed potatoes are my husband's absolute favorite food. If it's on the menu as a side, he'll order it. I make them from time to time. I go through garlic so fast that I have to mentally remember to buy an extra bulb when I'm at the grocery store. These will take a little extra time, but the results are well worth it!

If you're making these for your Valentine dinner, make them and hold in a low temp oven until you're ready to serve your main course. The potatoes can be peeled and chopped, then held in a bowl filled with water. Just keep the bowl in the fridge. This is a big time saver because peeling potatoes is a task. If you have teenagers or tweens in the house, enlist them to help you with this!

To make the roasted garlic, take a length of aluminum foil and fold in half. Cut off the top of your garlic bulb using a chef's knife. This makes it easier to get the pulp out once the garlic is roasted.

Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Twist up the edges. This locks in the steam and flavor. Put in a 400* oven for 45 minutes to an hour.

Pull from the oven and unwrap. Let this cool down a little bit before you try squeezing otherwise you will have hot burning magma of roasted garlic on your hands and you'll be crying like a baby.

Now to extract the roasted garlic, just squeeze from the base of each clove pod. See how it squirts right out the top? You can make this roasted garlic up ahead of time and keep in a little airtight tupperware container in the fridge.

Peel and cut up enough yukon gold potatoes as you need. Here's Paige mid karate chop! She is such a great helper.

Once you've got the potatoes cut, fill the pot with enough water to cover all of the potatoes.

Put the pot on a high burner and boil until the potatoes are fork tender.

Drain the potatoes in a colander. While the potatoes drain, heat 3 Tbsp butter and 1/4 cup milk in the microwave.

Put the potatoes and all of that delicious roasted garlic in a mixing bowl and whip on high for 30 seconds. Don't over beat because it will over work the starch in the potatoes and they'll become very rubbery and glossy. If that *does* happen, add a little more milk and it should correct itself.

Season with salt and pepper and then mix again just until everything is smooth.

Transfer your potatoes to an oven safe bowl, cover with foil and put in the oven to hold (*if you're making this for the Valentine dinner).

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